What Is a Cataract?

Many people have heard the term cataract and know it’s eye related, but often confuse it with other medical eye conditions like glaucoma or macular degeneration, which permanently damage vision. In contrast to those, cataracts are (usually) a normal part of aging, and are treatable. Cataracts are the leading cause of reduced vision in people over age 55. A cataract is when the lens inside the eye (which helps the eye focus, like a camera) starts to get cloudy. This causes the vision to blur, worsens glare from bright lights, and glasses are not enough to clear up the vision.

How to Prevent and Treat Cataracts

Cataracts are related to UV light absorbtion, so wearing sunglasses to protect the eyes from UV can delay or slow the development of cataracts. Smoking can speed up cataract development, so avoid/stop smoking. There is some research that shows consuming eye-friendly nutrients, like lutein/zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, can reduce the risk of cataract formation. Once a cataract has begun developing it will slowly worsen over a number of years, and when the vision is impaired enough, your eye doctor will recommend removing the cataract with is a simple minor surgical procedure. Regular eye checkups are important so your eye doctor can discover cataracts early on and discuss options with you.

— Contributed by Dr. Elizabeth Wickware, OD, MS